‘Community’ is something that is often spoken of but sometimes hard to describe. It means many things to many different people. It is something we aspire to be apart of or to actively contribute towards but we rarely sit back and take stock of the role that we all play. All of us, to a lesser or greater degree, actively or passively, focus on our own - it is natural and not something to necessarily be ashamed to admit. Be it our performance at work, looking after our family or success in our studies, we are pre-programmed to focus on our immediate world. Recent terror attacks in both London and Manchester saw the best and worst of our societies brought into sharp focus. Stories continue to emerge of complete strangers giving shelter to people caught up in the disaster, people offering free lifts home - regardless of distance and acts of great courage and bravery displayed by those both in and out of uniform.
Our communities are experiencing significant periods of flux and pressures that they have not felt in a generation. Events in Manchester and London have the potential to cause us to become more insular and introspective but it is now more than ever that we should take time to make new friends, meet our neighbours and spend time with people we would not usually associate with. These new associations and chance meetings help to deconstruct barriers and dispel the myths. It is important that we all play our part in this.
Not for one second do we think that cycling is the panacea to the challenges that our communities face but, in a tiny way, it has brought me a period of reflection and introspection that I have never experienced before. Being a triathlete is a solitary sport. Getting up at 5am to ride a bike for 5 hours, then run for a further hour is not conducive to conversation or making new friends. It is a brutal solo sport that requires a selfish dedication to "the grind" as my coach used to say. Although you may sometimes train with a club, on race day, you are on your own. You survive or die by your own personal effort and performance. I now cycle exclusively for fun. We have two shop rides each week but we are also becoming a quasi-club house to groups of other cyclists. I now enjoy laughs and fun with people that 6 months ago I had never met. I now consider these people to be my friends and I feel very privileged to be able to do so.
I love Kings Heath. Drayton Road has become a second home to us. I speak daily to lots of community members - people who use our shop and simply those that wave to me as I sit in the window working on my laptop. Kings Heath has something special, a delicate and pure attraction that I am proud (in a very, very small way) to be contributing towards. That attraction is its sense of community.
Over the summer, with the help of our customers and the residents of Drayton Road, we plan to play our part in helping to make Kings Heath a great place to live, work or visit. We have a number of fundraising activities for our charity of the year, Anawim; we are cycling to Paris in September and are working in collaboration with the residents of Drayton Road to coordinate a street party. We can’t wait for this summer and all that it has in store. New friends, more laughs and some great events…. It’s an exciting place to be.